From director Drew Goddard, producer of the hit movie “The Martian,” comes “Bad Times at the El Royale,” an edge-of-your-seat thriller that is sure to be the most-talked-about movie of fall.
Twentieth Century Fox weaves a riveting tale set in the late 1970s of seven strangers who find themselves at the same neglected motel and who each have their own scandalous secrets to hide. The film resolves the viewer’s desires for each character, and whether or not that means a happy ending does not matter.
Before seeing the movie, there is a general assumption that this film is going to be like all the other action films already out there. While “Bad Times at the El Royale” does contain many of the stereotypical elements required to be called an action film, the thematic elements that make the movie worth seeing go beyond those. Intense, bloody fight scenes and a motel full of ulterior motives lend themselves to an almost-film noir atmosphere.
The opening scene of the film, in which a frazzled man hides a bulging briefcase under his motel room floor, sets the audience up for a strange, exciting thrill ride. When the rest of the guests arrive, the concierge proceeds to tell Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges) that the El Royale is “no place for a priest.”
The film does an excellent job in grabbing viewers’ attention within the first few minutes. The startling end of the very first scene guarantees that the viewer will continue to watch with devotion, and it promises a twisty, high-staked cinema adventure.
The strengths of “Bad Times at El Royale” lie in its distinction from standard action films. This film contains physical conflict in a kidnapping, murders and other crimes; however, the edgy thriller side of the film brings it up a notch and leaves the viewer hiding behind her shirtsleeve for protection from the surprising twists lying around corners.
Along with the variety it adds to its genre, this film overflows with supreme characterization. Through flashbacks and a segmented storyline, the film provides insight into the lives and motives of each character. Thus, the viewer is able to empathize with each character as he or she slips up or references his or her past.
There are but a few flaws that must be mentioned, each concerning Chris Hemsworth and his role as Billy Lee. While completely lovable as Thor in the Marvel films, Hemsworth took on a dramatically opposite role in the film as a cult leader and murderer. This role reversal is much praised, for he did a great job as cynic.
This film has an R rating because it contains partial nudity, all of which can be attributed to Hemsworth and his tendency to lose his shirt halfway through his films. When questioning hostages, is a bare chest necessary? This partial nudity takes away from the essence of the plot, which is unfortunate because Hemsworth does a great job in his role.
Combining elements of traditional action flicks, engaging thrillers and classic film noirs, “Bad Times at the El Royale” reveals that what it takes to make a movie worth watching is to give viewers what they want in new, unexpected ways. The film ends not quite as the viewers would expect or maybe even hope, but it definitely leaves the audience pleasantly fulfilled in the outcome.